Friday, November 9, 2018


Increasing the proportion of building engineering services systems produced off-site will help the industry improve productivity and quality. This was the key message from a conference session chaired by BESA President Tim Hopkinson.

Adrian Mitchell of Balfour Beatty said the factory-based model could reduce programmes by between 20% and 60% depending on the nature of the project and cut delivery costs by as much as 40%. It could also lead to a 70% reduction in project labour – with some major projects benefiting from a saving of more than 100,000 working hours.

Working off-site improves safety and working conditions for staff by minimising elements like working at heights and ‘hot works’. He said that manufacturing m&e risers was one of the most valuable off-site activities contractors could now deliver.

However, the session also heard about multiple barriers to wider adoption of off-site methods including the fact that many projects start with incomplete designs – a factor that can be “fatal to off-site”, according to Mr Mitchell.

Other issues like site restrictions can hold back off-site specifications, but many of these obstacles – including the challenges posed by refurbishment projects – can be overcome by adopting a ‘design for manufacture and assembly’ (DfMA) approach where the contractor operates more like a manufacturer.

“The industry does not currently maximise the pre-construction phase as well as it should,” said Mr Mitchell. “We need to stress to clients how DfMA can add value to all aspects of a project and model ourselves on the motor industry, which makes great use of standardisation and multiple modules.”

He said off-site approaches could help to narrow the skills gap, but in a way that is complementary to on-site skilled trades and would not “force them out the door”.

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